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Haiti relief turns from rescue to rebuild
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
November 05, 2010
8 MIN READ TIME

Haiti relief turns from rescue to rebuild

Haiti relief turns from rescue to rebuild
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
November 05, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Walking

up to a one-room cement block house on the outskirts of Croix des Bouquet,

Tommy Green “oohed” and “aahed” over a snuggly wrapped newborn of a young

Haitian.

It was a scorching hot day

in October and Green had gone to visit one of the first families to move into a

home recently constructed by Haitian laborers under the direction of a

rebuilding effort led by the Florida Baptist Convention.

“She delivered the baby

during the construction and now they have a safe home in which to live,” said

Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon.

The meeting personified the

Florida pastor’s trip to Haiti to teach seminary classes to Haitian pastors and

see firsthand the work of Florida Baptists in the nine months since the earthquake.

Photo by Ken Touchton/Florida Baptist Convention

A youngster waits outside the Florida Baptist Mission House in Port-au-Prince for food in the early days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Florida and Southern Baptists distributed 65 tons of rice and 20 tons of beans in the aftermath of the earthquake and have another 17 tons of rice ready for disbursement if a hurricane hits.

“One life being changed in

the Lord is the focus of the work that we must do in Haiti,” said Green, a

former president of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

“This baby boy might be the

one that God will raise up to be the voice that will be used to change the

entire nation of Haiti,” Green said.

Upon his return to Florida,

Green said he “left Haiti with a heavy heart for the hurt and struggles of the

people and with a thankful heart that I serve in partnership with the Florida

Baptist Convention which takes seriously the demands of the Gospel of Jesus

Christ to touch the world with the love of Jesus Christ.”

For nine months, Florida

Baptists have joined hands with Haitian Baptists to mount an all-out recovery

plan to heal shattered lives from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook the

core of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region Jan. 12.

Working in conjunction with

Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief and the church leaders of the

Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti (CMBH), Florida Baptist disaster

relief leaders are looking toward the future while assessing the past nine

months.

The next phase of work in

Haiti — CMBH Rebuild, focusing on constructing homes and rebuilding churches —

launched Oct. 1, closing the door on the relief phase, said Fritz Wilson,

incident commander of the Haiti earthquake response and Florida Baptist

disaster relief director.

Foremost in the plan is a

goal of building 3,200 “transitional homes,” a 12-by-16-foot cement block

structure with a metal roof. Additionally, relief workers have set a “Hallelujah

goal” to build another 3,000 homes to bring the total of new homes planned for

the Haitian people to more than 6,000.

Funding for these homes will

be shared through resources from the Florida convention, North American Mission

Board and Baptist Global Response relief organization and additional donations.

Other state conventions have

expressed interest in helping to build homes, including the Kentucky Baptist

Convention which has earmarked $200,000 for the rebuild.

Florida Baptists developed

the model for the transitional home using the experiences they gathered as they

tore down homes damaged by the earthquake and built 350 temporary shelters for

more than 350 families. The concept is similar to one used by BGR after the

2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The homes will be built

primarily on sites where previous homes had been located, Wilson said, to keep

families together.

Volunteers will not be

needed to build the houses. Instead, Haitians will be hired and trained to do

the construction, which will “provide jobs and job skills to families in

addition to building homes,” Wilson said.

Currently the CMBH Rebuild

is employing 117 Haitians as contract workers to build homes, including 35 who

are managing the construction. Wilson believes as many as 200 Haitians will be

employed in the future.

Construction materials will

be purchased in the country to help the local economy and to avoid construction

delays and “the challenge of getting donated materials through the Haitian

customs system,” Wilson said.

Ultimately, Wilson believes

the construction of new homes will serve as a platform for local churches to

evangelize their communities. “Our goal is to build a home for a lost family

for every home we build for a church member,” he said.

Along with the building of

homes, another $300,000 is allocated to help rebuild 186 churches damaged in

the earthquake. Funding will not cover all repair and reconstruction costs for

the churches, Wilson said, which will allow Haitian churches to contribute to

their own buildings.

During the relief phase of

the past nine months, Florida Baptists as well as Southern Baptist from around

the country alongside CMBH churches accomplished more than most people could

have imagined, Wilson said.

Primary among the

accomplishments, Wilson said, is the work of the CMBH churches to seize the

time of spiritual unrest caused by the earthquake to lead 165,213 Haitians to

Christ and start 272 churches.

Added to that, another 2,000

professions of faith were reported by Florida and Southern Baptist disaster

relief and ministry teams, which included 1,800 volunteers from 39 state

conventions and the Canadian National Baptist Convention. More than 200

volunteers were from Florida Baptist churches.

Another 200 Florida Baptist

volunteers worked stateside in the relief effort, which included collecting,

palletizing and shipping Buckets of Hope food supplies for Haitian families.

The Haiti earthquake spurred

the largest international medical response in Southern Baptist disaster relief

history, Wilson said. From mid-January through March, an average of three

medical teams per week was deployed. After that, three medical teams a month

were sent to Haiti.

Yet perhaps the greatest

phenomena of the relief effort, Wilson said, was the concept and implementation

of Buckets of Hope as a hands-on ministry that every Southern Baptist church

could adopt. Wilson conceived the idea and developed the process, including

determining packaging and food stuffs to purchasing the buckets.

To date, 150,000 Buckets

have been filled by Southern Baptists and shipped to Haitian families.

As of Oct. 1, Wilson

reported, 80,000 buckets had distributed throughout Haiti, both in the quake

zone and in outlying areas to families who lost their homes and migrated to

other areas. Another 60,000 buckets remained in port at Port-au-Prince awaiting

clearance through customs, while 10,000 buckets were in transit from the United

States.

Currently, buckets are being

dispersed at a rate of 10,000 a week, and all are expected to be distributed by

Thanksgiving.

To accomplish a relief

effort of this magnitude has been amazing, Wilson said, yet it could not have

been done without vision and dozens of people working behind the scene.

“The establishment of the

CMBH 15 years ago along with the work of the Florida Baptist Convention’s

Partnership Missions Department laid the groundwork for what was accomplished.

Without that organization, we would have been struggling to accomplish half of

what we did,” he said.

Likewise, Wilson added, “The

Lord’s sparing of the CMBH guest house and the many churches located near the

tent cities allowed us to minister more effectively to the people of Haiti,

giving a home base for operations and housing for volunteers.”

It is “remarkable,” said

Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida convention’s Partnership Missions

Department, “that in spite of the death and destruction in Haiti, we have made

advancements in the work. A total of 272 new churches, 165,000 new Christian

believers and increasing the size of the CMBH mission house to accommodate more

volunteers — that is growth.

“Rather than take a step

backwards, in the past nine months, the CMBH has taken three or four steps

forwards. That is a miracle of God,” Culbreth said.

Pastor Green who has

traveled back and forth to Haiti concurred. “The confidence of Florida Baptists

can remain high that the gifts to Haiti donated through the Florida Baptist

Convention are reaching and impacting the lives of people in Haiti,” he said.

“I rejoice for the vision of (convention executive director) Dr. John Sullivan for the work in Haiti and

that we were on the ground before, during and after the earthquake sharing the

love of Jesus Christ with the hurting in this country,” Green said.

“The salvation decisions

that are being made in Haiti are a reflection of the presence of the Lord

through the ministry of Florida Baptists in Haiti.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman

is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)

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